Steelers Notebook: Boykin Gets His Shot

The smile on the new cornerback's face told only half the story of his first day with the Steelers' first team.

LATROBE -- With the Pittsburgh Steelers' entire first-team secondary sidelined Thursday by a variety of bumps and bruises, the new guy finally got his chance to play with the first team.

And that was all good with cornerback Brandon Boykin.

"I feel good about it, man," said Boykin, who was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles this past weekend. "I wanted to get in that real, live action with the first team, being able to go against guys like A.B. (Antonio Brown) and Ben (Roethlisberger). They gave me that shot and I felt comfortable. I knew the plays. I knew where to be. I was playing fast. So that worked out."

Boykin wasn't noticeably beat, and appeared to know his assignments as receivers such as Brown criss-crossed in and out of Boykin's zone. He was not only playing fast, but Boykin played as physical as any 5-9 1/2, 185-pounder the Steelers have had in their secondary.

The question remains: How will Mike Tomlin work Boykin into the lineup with the top three cornerbacks healthy?

"That's what the preseason is for," Boykin said. "That's what practice is for. There are people who are going to play and it's my job to do what I'm supposed to do so I can be a part of that."

So far, Boykin has to be making a positive impression with the coaching staff. And how does he feel about the organization?

"Love it," Boykin said. "Love the team. Love the locker room. Love the coaches. Love the fans. I'm not going to say it's day and night from Philly, it's just a different atmosphere. For me struggling to try to play corner in a scheme that wanted taller guys, it's refreshing to come here and see guys my size all over the field making plays. It's fun."


Dick Hoak, the long-time running backs coach with the Steelers, and Jerome Bettis's coach throughout his career in Pittsburgh, visited St. Vincent College on Thursday and was asked about his soon-to-be Hall of Fame player.

"He was just a great back," said Hoak. "A lot of people think he was just a guy who ran over people, but they didn't realize how good his feet were. He could make you miss, for a big guy of 255 pounds or so. He could make you miss, and if he didn't make you miss he could run you over. He had his options."

Hoak, who will attend the induction ceremony Saturday night in Canton, was asked to recall his favorite Bettis runs.

"There's the one everyone points to," Hoak said, "where he ran over the linebacker from Chicago and carried them into the end zone. He had one in the Tampa Bay game. It was like he was bowling and knocking them over like tenpins when he got in the secondary. It was about a 25-yard run. He would knock one guy over and then the next one and the next one. That was a lot of fun.

"Those two runs were great. And then there was one in Cincinnati. It was great to watch it from the end zone because it showed how good his feet were. There was a hole there and a safety was sitting right in the hole and he just did some tap dance and the safety fell on his nose and he scored. He loved to play Cincinnati. I don't know why. He just enjoyed playing against them."


With so many Steelers injured, Thursday's practice was mainly a show of backups. But according to sideline reporter and former player Craig Wolfley, there was at least one shining light.

"Arthur Moats to me is quietly having a terrific camp," said Wolfley. "You watch him and he is just so confident in both the run and passing game. He's always in position. Doesn't waste any steps, whether he's dropping in pass routes or whatever. He's got measured steps and knows how to cut those steps down for maximum efficiency. In other words, he reads very, very well."

What did Wolfley like about the first-team left outside linebacker in particular on Thursday?

"Well, I liked the one-on-one pass rush. He and Marcus Gilbert were having a good go. He was right on the edge of getting Marcus and Marcus was on the edge of getting him. It was a good give and take. But you watch him in the run game, too. He just keeps showing up. Sets the edge very well, squeezes down very well. He looks powerful and confident. Those are the things you appreciate when you watch.

"And the other thing about him that I really love, and I told him this today, he brings joy to practice in his effort. He's an energy-bringer, and that's what this defense needs, some energy-givers. "


Inside linebacker Vince Williams limped off the field with a hamstring injury. That was the bad news. The good news is that safety Robert Golden's leg injury isn't as significant as Tomlin had believed on Wednesday. "His ligaments are in place, which is good news," Tomlin said. "He'll probably be out for this football game but we expect him to work his way back to us here in a number of days."

Others missing Thursday's practice in either its entirety or parts were James Harrison, Ramon Foster, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton, William Gay, Cortez Allen, Ross Ventrone, Daniel McCullers, Clifton Geathers and Josh Harris.

Tomlin was asked specifically about Foster, but Tomlin could've been talking for several of the injured veterans when he said, "He's doing fine. We're just taking care of a veteran player. He's got some bumps and bruises associated with camp. He's a guy that knows how to play. We're giving opportunities to young and developing guys like Chris Hubbard to get some reps with the varsity, and that's big for him."


The Steelers waived/injured tight end Rob Blanchflower, the 2014 seventh-round pick, after claiming tight end Ray Hamilton off waivers from the Dallas Cowboys.

Hamilton comes out of noted tight end factory Iowa, where he caught 18 passes for 175 yards and three touchdowns last season.

Hamilton, born and raised in Strongsville, Ohio, measured 6-4, 262 at his pro day and ran the 40 in 5.09. He wasn't drafted and signed with the Cowboys on May 9.

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